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Full text of "The History Of Western Education"

THE EIGHTEENTH CENTURY              295

the example of Plato, he would have the direction of the national
education entrusted to a board of magistrates of the highest rank.
These magistrates should see that the young Poles would acquire
all the knowledge of their own country needed to make them
patriots, and that by means of gymnastic exercises and games they
would learn to act together for common ends.

This scheme, it must be noted, was only part of a much larger
scheme. Rousseau did not mean to suggest that a reform of
educational method was in itself sufficient to bring about national
reform, or that an education that makes good citizens is necessarily
a natural education. On the contrary, he is careful to insist that
the best education is only possible in the ideal State, where the
individual does not find inclination and duty in constant conflict,
and where life as a citizen is at the same time a life of self-
realization.

But at the time when he wrote the Emile, he had made up his
mind that it was impossible to find or to make such an ideal
State anywhere. Public education, he says in Book I, no longer
exists and can no longer exist, because there are now no States
worthy to be regarded as the fatherlands of their citizens. For a
national education to be also natural—that is, to be in harmony
with the individual nature of the citizen—the citizen must find
his whole life in the State ; and though that was possible in the
little city States of ancient Greece, it is not possible in the great
nation-States of the modern world, where individuality is crushed
out and everyone is forced into a common mould* Does that mean
that a natural education is quite inconceivable under existing
conditions ? That indeed seems to be Rousseau's first conclusion
in the Emile ; and then somewhat inconsistently he goes on to ask
whether it might not be possible under quite exceptional circum-
stances to educate a boy for society without making him unnatural,
and so fashion both a man and a citizen.

Now, though Rousseau did not see it, the possibility of such
an education,depends entirely on what is implied in the opposi-
tion which he continually assumes between man's nature and
social institutions. If society is wholly unnatural, if social
institutions can only exist by the complete repression of the
innate tendencies of human nature, then the only way to educate
the boy Emile in accord with nature would be to keep him out
of society altogether; or if, as Rousseau has to admit, that is no